Bertolt Brecht


The song about the class enemy



Bertolt Brecht, 

Eugen Berthold Friedrich “Bertolt” Brecht (10 February 1898 – 14 August 1956) was a German theatre practitioner, playwright, and poet. (wikipedia).



The song about the class enemy





When I was young, I went to school,
and I learned what is mine, and what is yours.
And when all had been learned,
it seemed to me that it was not all.


And I had no breakfast to eat,
and others, they had:
And thus in the end I learned all, indeed
about the nature of the class enemy.


And I learned, why and for what reason
there is a rift across the world.
And it remains between us, since the rain
falls downwards. 




And they said to me: If I am well-behaved,
then I’ll become their kind.
But I thought: If I’m a sheep,
I’ll never become butcher.

And I saw one and another of us
who took the bait.
And when to him happened what happened
to you and to me,
then he was astonished.

But as for me, I wasn’t amazed,
soon I discovered what their game is:
The rain, as it is, falls downwards
and, as it is, doesn’t fall upwards.




Here I heard the drum being bet,
and everybody talked about this:
Now we should wage wars
for a little place in the sun.


And hoarse voices promised us
everything under the sun.
And fat-bellied bigwigs
shouted: Don’t get wimpish now!


And we believed: Now there are only hours left,
then we’ll have this and that.
But the rain once more fell downwards,
and during four years we guzzled grass.




And once, it was said at once:
Now, let’s make Republic!
And one man here is equal to another,
be he meager or fat.


And those who were flat from hunger
never were as full of hope.
But those who ate their fill,
were full of hope like them.


And I said: Something there can’t add up
and I was filled with dismal doubts:
That doesn’t add up, that the rain
is supposed to flow upwards.




They gave us slips of paper to vote,
we gave away the arms.
They made us a promise,
and we gave our rifle. 


And we heard: those who understand about it,
they now would help us.
We should go about work,
they would do the rest.


There once again I let myself affect
and, like it was called for, I kept still
and thought: that’s fair on behalf of rain
that it wants to flow upwards.




And soon after I heard sayings,
now all has been put right already.
If we support the lesser evil
then we will be exempted from the bigger one. 


And we swallowed the shaveling Brüning,
so it not be the Papen.
And we swallowed the junker Papen,
because otherwise it was the Schleicher’s turn.


And the shaveling gave it to the junker,
and the junker gave it to the general.
And the rain fell downwards,
and it fell a thumping lot.




While we went around with ballot papers,
they closed down factories.
When we slept in front of dole offices,
we left them alone. 


We heard sayings like these:
Always calm! Only just wait!
After a major crisis
comes a major boom! 


And I told my colleagues:
That’s how the class enemy speaks!
When this one talks about good time,
it’s all about his time.


The rain cannot do it upwards,
just because suddenly it is well-intentioned
towards us.
What it can, is: it can stop,
namely when the sun shines.




One day I saw them marching,
behind new flags.
And many of ours said:
There’s no more class enemy.


There ahead of them I saw
mugs, I already knew them,
and I heard voices roaring
in the old sergeant-like tone.


And quietly through the flags and the celebrations
the rain fell night and day.
And anyone who lay on the street,
could feel it.




They exercised themselves in shooting
and loudly spoke about the enemy
and pointed franticly across the border.
And it was us they meant.


Because us and them, we are enemies
in a war that only one wins.
Because they live on us and croak,
if we aren’t the coolies any more.


And it’s for that why
you oughtn’t be astonished,
if they throw themselves on us, like the rain
throws itself on the soil.




And he among us who starved to death,
he died in a battle.
And he among us who died,
he has been bumped off.


He whom they fetched with their soldiers,
starving discomfited him.
He whom they smashed the mandible,
he had asked for bread.


He whom they promised bread,
now they prey on him.
And he whom they bring in the zinc coffin,
he told the truth.


An he who then had believed them about it,
when they pretended being his friends,
what he at that time had expected was,
that the rain falls upwards.




For we are class enemies,
whatever they tell us:
He among us who didn’t dare to fight,
he dared to starve.


We are class enemies, drummer!
This, your drumming doesn’t drown it out!
factory owner, general and junker –
our enemy, that’s what you are!


About this, nothing will be displaced,
there, nothing will be put right!
The rain doesn’t fall upwards,
and for sure it’s not what we ask him to!




Your painter may brush all he can,
he won’t smear over the rift!
One stays and one ought to yield,
either me or you.


And whatever I’ll learn yet,
this is what remains as the basics:
Never I have anything in common
with the matter of the class enemy.


The word will not be found
that ever might unite both of us.
The rain falls upwards down.
And you are my class enemy.


Bertolt Brecht – The song about the class enemy






Bertolt Brecht wrote hundreds of poems throughout his life. He began writing poetry as a young boy, and his first poems were published in 1914.  His poetry was influenced by folk-ballads, French chansons, and the poetry of Rimbaud and Villon.


Some of Brecht’s poems


A Bad Time for Poetry
Alabama Song
Children’s Crusade
Children’s Hymn
Contemplating Hell
From a German War Primer
Honored Murderer of the People
How Fortunate the Man with None
Hymn to Communism
I Never Loved You More
I want to Go with the One I Love
I’m Not Saying Anything Against Alexander
In Praise of Illegal Work
In Praise of the Work of the Party
Mack the Knife
My Young Son Asks Me
Not What Was Meant
O Germany, Pale Mother!
On Reading a Recent Greek Poet
On the Critical Attitude
Questions from a Worker Who Reads
Radio Poem
Reminiscence of Marie A.
Send Me a Leaf
Solidarity Song
The Book Burning (The Burning of the Books)
The Exile of the Poets
The Invincible Inscription
The Mask of Evil
The Sixteen-Year-Old Seamstress Emma Ries before the Magistrate
The Solution
To Be Read in the Morning and at Night
To Posterity
To the Students and Workers of the Peasants’ Faculty
An die Nachgeborenen (de) (To Those Born After)
United Front Song
War Has Been Given a Bad Name
What Has Happened?



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